Celeb Trainer Harley Pasternak: The Secret Health Perks of Coffee, Chocolate and Wine
Courtesy Harley Pasternak
Harley Pasternak is a celebrity trainer and nutrition expert who has worked with stars from Halle Berry and Lady Gaga to Robert Pattinson and Robert Downey Jr. He’s also a New York Times best-selling author, with titles including The Body Reset Diet and The 5-Factor Diet. His new book 5 Pounds is out now. Tweet him @harleypasternak.
Three Healthy Indulgences—in Moderation
When a food or beverage you already love turns out to have health benefits, it’s like winning the lottery. Here’s my trifecta of favorite indulgences: coffee, chocolate and red wine, and some of the health benefits each offers.
Coffee: What’s Not to Love?
The rich blend of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and bioflavonoids in a cuppa Joe confer numerous benefits. Caffeine may be the most well-known ingredient in coffee, but make sure you don’t overdo it! Too much caffeine obviously can interfere with sleep, but it can also cause stomach irritation and racing heartbeat. Here are five excuses to have a cup to two each day:
1. Improved athletic endurance. A review study on endurance athletes who either cycled or ran after consuming coffee and then underwent a vigorous workout found that moderate coffee intake delayed fatigue and improved endurance performance by up to 24 percent.
2. Assist in weight loss. Chlorogenic acid (CGA), a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in caffeinated coffee can improve insulin resistance and fatty liver disease, both of which are common side effects of obesity. When researchers regularly injected mice fed a high-fat diet for 15 weeks with CGA, they did not gain weight. Nor did they develop high blood sugar, insulin resistance, or fatty liver.
3. Reduced likelihood of developing diabetes. A study of more than 75,000 adults found that those who increased their daily coffee intake by a cup or more a day over a 4-year period were 11 percent less likely to have developed diabetes than those who did not up their intake. Meanwhile, reducing intake by a cup or more resulted in a 17 percent increase in developing diabetes.
4. Lower risk of coronary artery disease. A Chinese study compared more that 25,000 young and middle-aged men and women who had no apparent symptoms of the disease. After reporting on their daily coffee consumption and being examined for evidence of the disease, those who consumed 3 to 5 cups of the beverage daily were the least likely to show early signs of clogged arteries.
5. Improved long-term memory. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University compared the memory retention of two groups of volunteers, none of whom were regular coffee drinkers. One group was given a tablet equivalent to the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee; the other group was given a placebo. The caffeinated group was significantly better at recognizing images similar to those that they had seen the day before. Whether coffee consumption can help protect against Alzheimer’s disease is a hot research subject. In one study of almost 2,500 elderly women who were at high risk for vascular disorders, those who drank more caffeinated coffee over a 5-year period maintained better cognitive abilities than those who consumed less.
Shining Light on Dark Chocolate
Chocolate with a cocoa content of 70-percent or higher is an excellent source of polyphenols and other antioxidants. Eating a small amount of dark (not milk) chocolate on a regular basis is associated with a number of heath benefits. Cocoa nibs, which are unsweetened, are another option.
1. Lower risk for heart attack or stroke. Australian researchers studied data on more than 2,000 adults with metabolic syndrome and created models that predicted cardiovascular events in this population. Because polyphenols help keep blood vessels dilated and are found in dark chocolate, the researchers concluded that eating 3 1/2 ounces every day could reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, preventing a significant number of heart attacks and strokes among this at-risk population. An earlier meta-analysis of seven studies found that chocolate consumption is associated with a significant reduction in cardiac and other metabolic disorders.
2. Less body fat. A study of more than 1,400 European teenagers found that those who consumed more chocolate tended to be slimmer overall and carry less fat around their middle than teens who ate less chocolate.
3. Help repair sun damage. In a Korean study, researchers found that when middle-aged and older women with facial wrinkles from moderate sun damage consumed a drink that contained cocoa flavonals for 24 weeks they saw a noticeable reduction in wrinkles and greater skin elasticity, compared to women who received a placebo.
4. Reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes. A Japanese studyfollowed more than 18,000 men for an average of nine years, during which they tracked their chocolate intake. At the end of the study, 1,123 men had developed diabetes. Depending on how much chocolate they consumed in a month compared to men who ate no chocolate, the men were anywhere from 7 to 17 percent less likely to have developed diabetes. Most impressively, men with a BMI of under 25 who had two or more weekly servings of chocolate had a 41 percent lower risk compared to those who ate no chocolate and were heavier.
5. Diminish stress. Among the findings of a study on the metabolic effects of eating dark chocolate, researchers found that consuming 40 grams (1.4 ounces) daily for two weeks resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of the stress hormone cortisol excreted in urine.
To Your Health: Raise a Glass of Wine
You’ve probably heard of the French paradox: they can eat a relatively high amount of saturated fat but remain slimmer and less subject to coronary disease than Americans. Resveratol, which is an antioxidant found in the skin of grapes and red wine may be one of the keys to the French paradox.Normalize blood sugar levels. Compared to white wine, red wine is five times more effective at inhibiting an enzyme called alpha-glucosidase, which prompts the small intestine to absorb glucose, a factor in developing type 2 diabetes. One study showed that red wine could almost completely inhibit the enzyme, compared to white wine at 20 percent.
1. Longer life span. When researchers at Harvard Medical School fed two groups of mice very high fat diets, but gave one group a large daily dose of resveratol, the results differed markedly. Those who received no resveratrol became obese, developed fatty livers and prediabetes, and died young. The mice supplemented with resveratol also got fat, but did not develop the other symptoms and lived considerably longer. A Finnish study that followed almost 2,500 Finnish men for 29 years found that wine drinkers have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than those who consume beer or spirits.
2. Promote the growth of “good” gut bacteria. According to a study published in theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming the polyphenols in red wine for four weeks inhibited the growth of non-beneficial gut bacteria and increased amount of probiotic bacteria such as bifidobacteria, which helps reduce cholesterol levels and C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation.
3. Reduce the risk of depression. A Spanish study of more than 5,500 men and women who initially had no history of depression or problems with alcohol were followed over a seven-year period. The researchers found that hose who drank 2 to 7 glasses of wine weekly were significantly less likely to experience depression than those who consumed none or less. Not surprisingly, heavy drinkers were at greater risk for depression.
4. Protect against breast cancer. Unlike most alcoholic beverages, drinking red wine can be beneficial in reducing the risk of breast cancer, according to a study out of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. By reducing levels of estrogen and raising levels of testosterone in premenopausal women, chemicals in the skins and seeds of red grapes reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
To Indulge or Not
Moderation is at the core of all healthy habits. Just because some wine, coffee or chocolate can have positive health effects, doesn’t mean that too much of them don’t have adverse health effects.
-If you currently don’t drink wine, don’t regard the studies cited here as an excuse to begin. You may be able to get similar benefits taking the relevant antioxidants and other compounds in supplements, grape juice, or other foods. A moderate intake of wine is one 5-ounce glass a day for a woman, or two for a man.
-Moderate coffee intake ranges from 3 to 5 cups a day, although personal tolerance varies greatly. The results cited are for caffeinated coffee, served without milk. Sugar, creamers and milk will all push up the calories.
-A moderate intake of dark chocolate is 1.5 ounces, which at 70-85% Cocoa, contains about 250 calories. This is a factor to consider when deciding if and how to incorporate it into your diet. Nor need it be a daily treat.